Poem for Poetry Thursday

Happy Poetry Thursday! Whenever I type that, it's like acknowledging a holiday. Too bad we don't get the day off to celebrate. But I digress...

Couldn't do the prompt--don't like math (read: that's why I'm an English major). So I'm posting a poem I've worked on for some years. Still not there yet, but everything I do is a work in progress.

Lately I've had conversations about poetry as a medium for preserving memories, and this poem is about capturing one moment as a snapshot. I guess it's coincidental that there is a photo in he poem.

Looking forward to seeing your poems this week, too!

Rosemary, circa 1958

She sits on a dorm room bed
wearing a nightie, almost translucent,
holding court with her girlfriends from nursing school;
cigarette in one hand, beer can in the other.
Atlanta, 1958, and a break from mid-term studies
turns into a late-night sleepover.
She is young, thin,
full of delight in her 18 years.
Her thick black hair is bundled
in big spongy rollers with a scarf
loosely tied around her head.
The photo, very black and very white,
refuses to fade with age, and in it,
my mother is all wilderness,
forgetting there are places in time
she would have it no other way.
Later, she will flunk her last year
and scrape together her education somewhere in North Carolina
She will meet my father at a party
and marry him five months later.
She will give up a nursing job in
New York City to start a family,
and soon I will push through her body
to join her in this world. I’m sure
she cannot picture nights alone
waiting for him to return from
a night of boozing,
taking long, incremental sips of
his favorite drink—loser on the rocks—
watching him drown on dry land.
No, my mother has no idea of what is to come.


So sad, so beautiful. I love the idea of looking at a photo and then fast forwarding through that person's life, the things that the s/he in the photo can't yet know.

Blogger working now too!
Anonymous said…
yay! i can finally post comments! i tried all day yesterday. thank you for this poem and for telling us about your conversations about using poetry to preserve memories. i have been looking for words that described the new focus of poetry on my blog and you nailed it! i thank you and praise you on a recent post.

you do such a good job of presenting family history in this poem. what a terrific example. i love how you say she cannot picture nights alone. it says so much about how things turn out different than we hope
bb said…
wow - i thought i loved the line

'soon I will push through her body
to join her in this world.'

until those closing lines shivered through my bones:

'watching him drown on dry land.
No, my mother has no idea of what is to come.'

powerful stuff, January, and a job far MORE than well done :-)
Kamsin said…
Really beautiful. I love the permenance of the photo which does not fade even when the young joyful 18 year old has been replaced by a mother and wife who has learnt failure and disappointment.
twilightspider said…
I kept trying to comment yesterday too - and I guess people were having the same problem with my blog. Sometimes I just want to curse Blogger!

This is so beautiful and moving and so well-formed. You have such a talent for capturing the essence of events - snapshots in time. *applause*
G said…
I like how simple and forthright your diction is here. You've accomplished so much; I felt like I was holding the photo in my own hands. "My mother is all wilderness." Wonderful.
Finally! I so wanted to comment on this wonderful poem yesterday but now I've gotten a chance to read it over again I have to say this is just brilliant. So heartfelt... it makes me wonder if we could see ahead into the future just how much we would change...
Thanks so much, January...
It touched me to the core. I am glad I can finally comment here to tell you how much I liked this.

Do chk my post...Straight Curves.
gkgirl said…
this is an impressive one...
i can picture the photo
in my head.
January said…
Thanks for the kind words, everyone.
GoGo said…
What I like about this poem is the descriptions. I can see the events flowing in my head like moving snap shots. I also love the ending, it makes me want to know more. I see an epic in these words, and there is a sympathy that wants to be fleshed out.

I also enjoyed learning 5 things about you.
ecm said…
I tried posting unsuccessfully a few days ago...but I love the perspective of this poem...using the photograph as a lens. And I like how it plays with time, you connect to this image and then have a bigger picture than she does in that moment...as in a photograph. Wonderful poem.
A haunting sad feeling lingers in the air long after I read this vivid snapshot back in time. Strong imagery in this recollection of unfulfilled dreams.
I'm enjoying discovering your work.

"http://shadowsinthemoonlight.typepad.com/shadows_in_the_moonlight/2007/02/i_want_to_hold_.html">I Want to Hold Your Hand)

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